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Week 13 SEC Primer

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Looking ahead to the week 13 action in the SEC.

The Vitals

Thursday

Ole Miss 31, (14) Mississippi State 28

Friday

Missouri at Arkansas, 2:30 ET (CBS)
Announcers: Carter Blackburn, Aaron Taylor and Rick Neuheisel

Saturday

(7) Georgia at Georgia Tech, Noon ET (ABC)
Announcers: Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill

Florida State at Florida, Noon ET (ESPN)
Announcers: Beth Mowins and Anthony Becht

Louisville at Kentucky, Noon ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour and Andre Ware

(1) Alabama at (6) Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)        
Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Dave Neal and Matt Stinchcomb

(3) Clemson at (24) South Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Announcers: Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge

Texas A&M at (18) LSU 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic

5 Things I Want to Know

1.     Can Alabama pass to win?

While the Crimson Tide can still be a force on the ground, they haven’t been as consistently dominant as in years past. Auburn allows just 3.14 yards per carry, easily the best of any opponent Alabama has faced this season. When Alabama was pushed to the final minute against Mississippi State, Jalen Hurts created big plays in the passing game to squelch the Bulldogs’ upset bid. Auburn’s defense is pretty salty against aerial attacks as well, but it will be Auburn’s preferred means for Alabama to have to move the ball.

2.     Can Kerryon Johnson have a Tre Mason-esque close?

Mason stormed into the Heisman Trophy race in 2013 with a combined 868 yards in Auburn’s final five games en route to the SEC title. Johnson has been on fire in November, amassing 449 yards in the past three games. Mason ran for 164 yards against Alabama four seasons ago. With Kamryn Pettway still out and quarterback Jarrett Stidham only being a modest running threat, Johnson may have to at least match Mason’s total for Auburn to win the Iron Bowl.

3.     Will South Carolina shake up the playoff picture?

It’s at home. It’s at night. It’s a rivalry game. The visitors have national title hopes. There are lot of ingredients for a South Carolina upset on Saturday night when No. 3 Clemson rolls into Columbia, but are the Gamecocks 50 points better than last year, when the Tigers put a 56-7 beatdown on them? South Carolina pushed Georgia into the second half in its only game against a team currently ranked, and that was on the road. There’s still a major talent gap between the two teams, but that hasn’t stopped Clemson from losing in similar situations over the past two seasons.

4.     Who finishes 0-8?

While Alabama and Auburn are battling for the SEC West title, Vanderbilt and Tennessee will play their annual in Knoxville for the right to avoid being the first SEC team to go winless in league play since 2014. Tennessee has had (another) strange week, as interim coach Brady Hoke dismissed wide receiver Jauan Jennings from the team on Wednesday. Jennings has bene out for the year with an injury, but figured to be a key cog for the 2018 Volunteers. The Commodores have been more stable, but haven’t been any more effective this season, allowing at least 34 points in all seven SEC contests.

5.      Can Kentucky corral Lamar Jackson again?

OK, so the ‘Cats didn’t exactly shut Jackson down in their 41-38 win in Louisville last season (452 total yards, four total TDs). What they did do was force a Jackson fumble in a tie game with two minutes remaining that prevented a go-ahead touchdown for the Cardinals and helped set up their own game-winning field goal. Kentucky’s run defense had been above average this season, but was blasted by Georgia last week, allowing 381 yards. That’s a scary number with Jackson about to roll into Lexington. The numbers won’t be pretty, but if Kentucky can force some big mistakes again, it can upset its in-state rival for the second straight year.

Trivia Time (answers below):

1.     Who is the last SEC champion to have two losses?
2.     Of the 17 meetings between Georgia and Georgia Tech this century, how many has the road team won?
3.     Florida State has never won five consecutive meetings with Florida. What is Florida’s longest winning streak in the series?

Predictions

Last Week: 9-0 SU, 5-2 ATS
Season: 82-20 SU, 53-42-4 ATS

Missouri (-9.5) at Arkansas: Will this be Bret Bielema’s final game at Arkansas? With an 11-28 record in SEC games, it seems likely. The Tigers come in as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won five straight, albeit none over teams who are going to a bowl game. The 4-7 Razorbacks fit that bill as well, but they did show some fight last week in jumping out to a 14-0 lead before falling to No. 16 Mississippi State. There should be zero weather issues, so I don’t see how this poor Arkansas defense slows Missouri down. The Hogs will get their points, but it won’t be enough. Missouri 41, Arkansas 28.

Georgia (-11) at Georgia Tech: A dangerous game for the 10-1 ‘Dawgs? Potentially, as Georgia Tech has won two of the last three meetings. The issue for the 5-5 Yellow Jackets, who need a win to make a bowl game, is slowing down the Georgia rushing attack. Georgia Tech allowed 6.2 yards per carry last week against Duke, which bodes well for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel having a big day and keeping the ball out of the hands of Paul Johnson’s offense. Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 14.

Florida State (-5) at Florida: 20 years ago, Florida State came to Gainesville ranked No. 1, and the underdog Gators won a 32-29 classic, considered to be perhaps the best game ever played at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. What a difference two decades makes, as both teams come in at 4-6, but off of blowout non-conference wins last week. The Seminoles can still get to a bowl game, while the Gators cannot. That’s enough for motivation for FSU to win an ugly game and for Jimbo Fisher to improve to 7-1 against the Gators. Florida State 23, Florida 17.

Louisville (-10) at Kentucky: Louisville has had this game marked for 52 weeks after falling apart late in last year’s loss to the Wildcats. Both teams are 7-4, but the Cardinals are double-digit favorites, showing you the lack of respect in Las Vegas for the SEC East. Jackson isn’t going to catch Baker Mayfield in the Heisman race, but he’ll put up nearly 500 yards of total offense to get revenge for last year’s collapse in a really fun game. Louisville 38, Kentucky 31.

Alabama (-4.5) at Auburn: The SEC’s Game of the Year will come down to one thing: Can Auburn run the ball as well as it did against Georgia? The Crimson Tide may get some of their injured linebackers back on Saturday, but the Bulldogs’ loaded second level could not contain Kerryon Johnson two weeks ago. If Auburn can open up the deep passing game, Jarrett Stidham has been locked in since midseason. The escape at Mississippi State was the best thing that could happen to Alabama, as the Tide will again be at their best in the fourth quarter to get out Jordan-Hare Stadium with their perfect season intact. Alabama 28, Auburn 21.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (-1): Don’t bet actual money on this game, as both are terrible football teams. Will the stability of Vanderbilt or the talent of Tennessee win out? The score didn’t necessarily indicate it, but I thought the Volunteers played a decent game last week against LSU. Jarrett Guarantano has a long way to go be a good SEC quarterback, but there have been some positive signs. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, looks like it needs a complete schematic reboot in the offseason. Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 17.

Clemson (-13.5) at South Carolina: Clemson still seems highly vulnerable, as the Tigers needed late defensive stands to avoid upset bids by N.C. State and Florida State. However, there’s not a complete performance by the Gamecocks this season to point to to suggest that they can actually pull this off. This rivalry is probably still a year away from returning to what it was from 2011-2013, when both teams entered the game with at least nine wins. There will be some drama, but the talent advantage for Clemson is simply too great. Clemson 31, South Carolina 24.

Texas A&M at LSU (-10): The last time these two teams met in Baton Rouge, it was supposed to be the last game for Les Miles, but a last-minute coup saved the Mad Hatter’s job (until he was fired 10 months later). Kevin Sumlin is in Miles’ shoes this year, but there isn’t likely to be a scenario, even with a win, in which Sumlin could be brought back. LSU is 5-0 in SEC games between the two teams, and the Aggies were only particularly close to winning in 2012. This number seems spot on, but I’ll lay them. LSU 28, Texas A&M 17.

Best Bets

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 31-26-3

Colorado +10.5 at Utah
Utah State +1.5 at Air Force
Louisiana-Lafayette -6 vs. Georgia Southern
Memphis -28.5 vs. East Carolina
Washington State +10.5 at Washington

Trivia Answers

1.     LSU (2007)
2.     12
3.     Nine (1968-76)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.